By RUTH EGLASH
Israel's population on the eve of Rosh Hashana 5770 stands at 7,465,500, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported on Wednesday.
Jews number some 5,569,000, or 75.5 percent of the population; Arabs total 20.2%, or 1,488,000 people. The remainder, 4.3%, are classified as "other," and are mostly immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not registered by the Interior Ministry as Jews.
The population continues to grow 1.8 percent each year, and the CBS statistics show that Israel is still a fairly young nation, with nearly 30% of the people under the age of 14, compared to 17% in most Western countries.
Only 9.7% of Israelis are older than 65, whereas in other Western countries the average is closer to 15%.
There were 156,923 babies born in 2008, an increase of 3.5% over the previous year and pushing the average Jewish family size up from 2.8 children to 2.96. In the Muslim community, the average number of children per mother was 3.84, a drop from the previous two years when it had been 3.97 children per household.
Among Christian families, the average number of children was down to 2.11 in 2008.
The ratio of men to women remains consistent, with slightly more women than men, especially later in life.
According to the CBS, there are 979 men for every 1,000 women; in the under-37 set there are more men, but the over-75 age group offsets this, with some 673 men for every 1,000 women.
More than 46,000 couples registered to marry in 2008, with 76% of them Jews and 20% Muslim. Divorces numbered 13,105. Among those terminating their marriage, 84% were Jews and only 9% Muslims.
The majority of the Jewish population is concentrated in Jerusalem and the coastal plain, including Tel Aviv, while 60% of the Arabs live in the North. In fact, while one-fifth of Israelis live in the North, only 10% of Jewish Israelis in there.
In the South, the split falls in the opposite direction; only 11% of the people there are Arabs, most of them Beduin.
Jerusalem saw the largest growth in population in 2008, with a rise of 2.1%, while cities such as Haifa, Ashdod, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Rishon Lezion saw only slight increases.
There has been a steady rise in the proportion of native Israelis. During the early years of the state, only 35% of the Jewish population had been born here, but by the end of 2008 that figure had increased to 70.7%.
When the state was established, there were only 806,000 residents, with this number reaching its first and second million in 1949 and 1958, respectively.
In 1990, Israel's population hit 5 million and in 1998, after the wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union, it numbered 6 million.
The population is expected to reach 10 million by 2030, CBS said.
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